The Portland Picnic Society Got Crabs

The Portland Picnic Society members do lots of things together—we dine together, we shop together, we cook together, and we even get crabs together. This past week, on a fortuitously sunny April evening, we and our crabs convened at Wallace Park in Northwest Portland for a Dungeness-fueled picnic to remember.

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It was a valiant PPS team effort as usual. For our picnic’s leggy centerpiece, the indefatigable Marnie took on the pivotal task of crab fetching—toting 11 crabs from Newman’s fish market on NW 21st Avenue to her home stove, where she steam-warmed them, then in true Portland style, schlepped the entire pot from her apartment to the park on foot, braving some good-natured heckling en route.

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The rest of us brought an assortment of crudités and salads—Lila’s simple, perfect pile of butter lettuce tossed with homemade Green Goddess dressing (click here to get Lila’s recipe on the PPS website), Brenda‘s elegant celery root rémoulade, and and this quintessential spring arrangement of shaved asparagus and Parmigiano-Reggiano courtesy of Lucy.

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And everyone brought butter. Michelle supplied a portable stove and we kept a pan of it melting continuously. Because it’s not a proper crab feed without at least a pound of butter per person.

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Andrea made fresh pretzels, whetting our appetite for her newly-released cookbook, Pretzel Making at Home, and baguettes appeared out of the woodwork—I was especially enamored with the SunStone Artisan Bakery epi loaf I’d gotten that morning at the Ashland farmers market, then raced back home to Portland with just in time to plunk it on the picnic table. (I was down there visiting family, btw, I didn’t go all the way to Ashland for an epi, picnic club hasn’t gotten that out of hand…yet)

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After an intense photography session,

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We all assembled plates that looked something like this:

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We sat around a picnic table overlooking Wallace’s dog park and the lush grassy grounds of stately Chapman School, a deviation from our normal picnic blanket dining arrangement, but eating crab sort of requires a table.

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Besides, we were worried that our butter buckets might fall over on the picnic blanket, and we already had to retire one blanket because Marnie threw deviled eggs all over it at our Easter meetup, and then danced on them, and it never recovered.

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Thanks to a heavy NYT overlay on the picnic table, cleanup was a snap, and we were on to dessert.

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Dessert—let’s talk about dessert. PPS member Kristen Murray, one of the finest pastry chefs in the known universe, could not attend this particular gathering, but in her place, she sent a proxy of 11 caramel mousse trifles with chocolate banana jam and graham petites, presented as so:

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Not to be smug or anything, but clearly we are the luckiest picnickers in Portland.

Night fell, the moon rose bright and full in the clear sky, and the PPS rosé spring began to dry up, so we packed up our crab shells and baguette crumbs and licked-clean mousse pots and scattered to our various corners of the city, leaving a trail of butter in our wake.

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When asked how they felt about getting crabs with the Portland Picnic Society, Lila, Andrea, and the Moon responded as such: